This spring 30 students of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master in Urban Studies – commonly known as 4CITIES – joined the premises of Caritas in Vienna to give something back to the community. Yvonne Franz, local 4CITIES coordinator for the University of Vienna, provides a look back at the first (but hopefully annual) 4CITIES community day. All photos courtesy of 4CITIES. Originally published by University of Vienna.
Together, we spent one full day working in the garden, in the kitchen and in the warehouse to prepare social products for the yearly Caritas plants market. The Caritas coordinators at Haus Noah in the 22nd district in Vienna made us feel comfortable, instantly. We could sense the personal attachment to the place and how much dedication it takes to keep it running constantly. It was touching to see, how grateful the team was for a one day contribution of help.
While picking grasses and mowing lawns we were accompanied by hens and rabbits.
Some of our volunteers brought some real gardening expertise with them. Needless to say we all learned a thing or two about how to tell what is considered to be a garden weed and what is not. A long day of garden work left some sunburns and bruised nails, but more than anything it left us with a shared memory of giving back and getting to know what is often hidden away.
A few residents became curious about our motivations and backgrounds. Even the difference in language turned out to be not much of an issue when it comes to connecting people through a momentarily shared activity and place.
The Caritas site Tageszentrum Am Himmel serves as a social agriculture place for people with special needs. The premises are huge and perfectly located in the green belt area of the 19th district in Vienna. As every gardener knows, a garden requires a lot of care.
Bibi Witvliet, a 4CITIES student from The Netherlands, reflects on the 4CITIES Community Day: “During our community service day at Caritas Am Himmel – we were literally working at the top of the sky and could observe Vienna from a bird’s eye view – we were involved in community garden work, carpentry activities, harvesting and processing local produce. For the whole day I felt very welcome and part of an inspiring and supportive team!”